What does “Chakma Script” mean for the Chakma community?
In June 16, 2020 had an international conference online on Zoom about endangered scripts where the main speaker Zachary Quinn Scheuren, a script specialist and font developer talked about several endangered scripts including Chakma with whom the main Chakma Unicode developer Mr. Bivuti Chakma is working with.
It’s been centuries that Chakma script was neglected or limited only to few number of Tantric Chakma Buddhist priests. Chakma script like many other Indian and southeast Asian scripts is derived from Brahmi script. The closest Brahmi script to Chakma is Kadamba Brahmi script which still bears similar resemble of Chakma script.
Due to geopolitical issues, ethnical persecution, racial discrimination, religious discrimination, Chakma tribe has been struggling only for survival. Even 40-50 years ago, not many Chakma poeple can afford for education. Only those who were very rich, they get higher opportunity for higher education but they too get influenced by majority people that in Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh, they are subjects of Bengalization. They speak Bengali, write Bengali and behave like Bengali as they feel acting like Bengali make them special. That’s the reason, those Chakma parents who brought their children up with Bengalization, they can’t even speak their own mother tongue #CHAKMA! There are dozens of so called rich and educated families whose grown up children can’t speak Chakma language properly. We have witnessed many families in Bangladesh and even we have in USA too.
Another issue in Bangladesh is the propaganda and misinformation spread by so called Bangladesh fake writers or authors who publish books or articles as they wish without verifying and fact checking any details about Chakma people. It’s ironic that none of those authors had really interviewed any Chakma person individually. Imagine, Chakma writers write about Bengali (Muslims) saying, they marry their own daughters and children. They marry 4-10 wives and give births like animals. Or they are very unsanitary and even eat meals in toilet! ……….what if Chakma writers spread all these biased and manipulated statements in their books and teach them to students?? What if Chakma writers insult Bengali culture, Bengali language or Islam? Definitely, there will be arson attacks on every Buddhist villages around the country! That’s what exactly happens against Chakma or other tribes in main stream media or social media.
Last year, few books were released by such kind of fake writers and few even from Bangladesh educational board, mentioning about Chakma in their chapters as wine is the main food of Chakma! What a crap! Chakmas are Buddhists and those hateful fake writers intentionally insulting Buddhism! There are many videos released in YouTube and social media explicitly degrading, discriminating and insulting Chakma people and Buddhism in CHT. The main reason of targeting Chakma people more than other tribes in Bangladesh, is because Chakmas politically and culturally Chakmas are more highlighted in media and other social platforms. There are many genocides and arson attacks on the indigenous minorities of CHT in the past since 1971. Land grabbing, rapes, arson attacks, racial and religious discrimination still exist against indigenous minorities!
It’s slightly different to those Chakmas living in Northern states of India who yet face ethnic discrimination and racial issues. Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Assam, West Bengal….. they are being dominated by other major languages and striving to preserve own mother tongue. Indian Chakmas still preserving originality of Chakma language and linguistically are not influenced as much Chakmas in CHT. In Tripura, Chakmas are working to legalize Chakma textbooks in primary levels in Chakma dominated areas. In Mizoram, Chakma Autonomous District Council, the only legal administrative governing body held by Chakmas, legalized Chakma textbooks in primary levels since 1994. CADC is one of several Autonomous Districts in India.
In Chittagong Hill Tracts, these Chakma Buddhist people not only being subjected to Bengalization but also Islamization too. CHT territory is a highly militarized region where systematic ethnic cleansing, Bengalization and Islamization are going on. Recently, we have witnessed many news and in social media where poor minority indigenous families are being forcefully Islamized and their children are being trafficked and converted to Islam.
The situation in Myanmar is worse where only 100,000 Chakmas are left after centuries of identity surviving struggle. These Myanmar Chakmas are regarded as the ancestors of Indian and CHT Chakmas. They almost forget Chakma language where only elder Chakma can speak Chakma, that too with different tone. Therefore Chakmas in Bangladesh and India take time for them to understand the tone of Myanmar Chakmas, though we communicate each other and intelligible to each other. But now they are working hard to revive their Chakma identity, Chakma language, Chakma culture and scripts. After Chakma people from India and Bangladesh visited them, introduced their lost script and culture, now they are eagerly promoting Chakma language and script awareness among the old and young Chakma generation.
Thanks to Mr. Bivuti Chakma for making the Chakma script digitalized and reintroduce to social media and other fields for Chakmas. Anyone can learn and write Chakma script from anywhere. Now we have many social media groups, pages, accounts who are voluntarily learning Chakma script and encouraging others too. Despite being subject of discrimination, Chakma people are trying hard to preserve their language, script, culture and identity in their inhabited countries. Arunachal Pradesh Chakmas are still fighting for their citizenship rights since 1960s, Tripura Chakmas are struggling to preserve and promote Chakma textbooks in state level, Mizoram Chakmas are fighting against inequality and racial discrimination and meantime also preserving Chakma scripts, Assam Chakmas are struggling for their survival who are known as orphans of Indian Chakmas because of their poor living condition, Chakmas in Chittagong Hill Tracts are struggling against systematic ethnic cleansing, Bengalization, Islamization and persecution, and Myanmar Chakmas are struggling to revive their lost Chakma culture, language and script.
If we lose our Chakma language and Chakma script, that means we are near to extinction as we are already being influenced and mixed with other majorities. Preserving Chakma script means preserving an endangered community and their culture.
Children of Chakma diaspora in western countries including USA, France, Japan, UK, Canada, Australia are already extincted. Because they know nothing about Chakma language, Chakma script, Chakma culture or even their origin because their parents too are unaware of them. We can only hope for survival and preservation of Chakma language and script and identity from those who are living in India, and Bangladesh. If they too forget or neglect Chakma language and script, that means there will be no sign of Chakma people in next century.
Therefore, if we don’t act together right now, we may be faded away. We need to promote and preserve our Chakma language and Chakma script.